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Top Tips About Sleep and Why it’s So Important

Sleep is immensely important for our bodies, and yet, it is often the first thing people give up when their lives get busy. It can be tempting to spend one more hour working when you’re on a roll, stay up late to study for a test, or pull an all-nighter or two to finish up a paper on time. However, when we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice a lot more than just our good mood the next day. When you skip out on sleep for ‘more important’ things, you are actually preventing yourself from doing anything well, and trying to do things while you’re sleep deprived just takes longer and much more effort to complete. You have to choose to prioritize sleep if you’re going to get a consistently good sleep though. One or two poor nights now and again isn’t going to hurt you, but sacrificing your sleep over and over again has long-lasting implications.

When we get a good sleep, we see the following benefits:

  • Improved productivity,

  • Improved focus,

  • Improved cognitive function,

  • Greater creativity,

  • Improved hormone regulation,

  • Increased energy,

  • Improved memory consolidation,

  • Improved brain health,

  • Improved fitness,

  • Strengthened immuned system,

  • Increased feelings of well-being, health, and life satisfaction.

However, when we fail to get enough sleep we can experience the following instead:

  • Decreased concentration,

  • Impaired ability to learn,

  • Impaired judgement,

  • Decreased motivation,

  • Increased apathy,

  • Lower mood,

  • Increased anxiety,

  • Increased stress,

  • Increased emotional reactivity,

  • Fatigue and sluggishness,

  • Decreased heart health,

  • Weakened immune system,

  • Decreased feelings of well-being, health, and life satisfaction.

Furthermore, long-term sleep deprivation can increase our risk for obesity, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, cancer, depression, and heart disease, among others.

What do you do if you can’t sleep though? Maybe you have insomnia, or you can’t shut off your mind, or maybe you just have a hard time falling asleep. Well, believe it or not, many of these problems actually stem from not having healthy habits relating to sleep, and your ability to sleep can be vastly improved by making simple changes to your routine. As university students, sleep can already be difficult to get, and with the pandemic going on as well, it’s more important than ever to get enough sleep.

Here are some of the top tips for improving your sleep:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning! Your mind and body thrive on consistency, and this will help it know when you should be asleep and when you should be awake.

    • This should apply even on days off.
    • This may also help any housemates cooperate with you on achieving some of the other tips listed here, since they’ll be better able to anticipate your sleep schedule as well.

  2. Keep your sleep environment dark and cool.

    • Cooling your forehead can also slow frontal cortex activity and help calm your mind.

  3. Have a well-ventilated environment at about 40-60% humidity.

    • Use fans or air conditioners, open windows, keep plants, or just open doors around the house during the day.

    • Consider using a humidifier if the air is too dry.

  4. Try to ensure any noise is the volume of whispering or quieter.

    • Earplugs may be a good solution for a couple of nights, but shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution as it can cause earwax to build up and damage your ears. For this same reason, make sure earplugs you use are clean for each use.

  5. Stay away from bright lights at least 1 hour before bed.

    • Blue lights from screens are especially bad. Try putting your devices away before you’re ready for bed, or use blue-light blocking glasses/screens.

    • Use more yellow-toned lights late at night rather than harsh white ones.

    • If you read before bed, switch to reading from a physical book rather than from your e-reader.

    • Alternatively, exposing yourself to natural light first thing in the morning is a great way to help yourself wake up!

  6. A greater satisfaction with your sleep environment is related to better sleep quality, so make sure your sleep environment is set up how you like it!

  7. Create a consistent bedtime routine. Doing so will help your mind and body separate the day from your bedtime.

    • Take this time to unwind from the day and prepare for bed.

  8. Only use your bed for sleep and sex! This will make your bed act as a cue that tells your brain when it is time to sleep.

  9. Avoid eating or exercising within a couple hours of bedtime. Both can raise your body temperature and heart rate and thus impair your ability to fall asleep.

  10. Get adequate exercise during the day.

  11. Drink enough water throughout the day.

  12. Avoid having too much to eat or drink before bed. It’s best to plan your eating times so that when you go to bed you’re not digesting a bunch of food, but you’re also not running on empty -- find a middle ground between the two.

  13. Address stressors during the day.

    • Give yourself time during the day to process things. If bedtime is the first opportunity you have to really think about your day and your feelings about it, you’ll end up thinking instead of sleeping.

    • Talk things out with the people involved. Be assertive about your needs and develop boundaries to help you rest easier.

    • Do something about the situation. Don’t avoid things and let them drag out and fester. 

    • Make a plan for how you’re going to deal with an issue. That way, if you can’t solve things immediately, you won’t feel the need to figure everything out right away.

  14. Avoid drinking caffeine after mid-afternoon.

  15. Avoid watching the clock once you’re in bed. All this does is stress you out and make it harder to sleep. Just congratulate yourself for getting to bed and then let your mind drift off to sleep on its own time. Perception of a good sleep can be just as effective as actually having a good sleep!

  16. Take a warm shower or bath. Just avoid doing so within 30 minutes of going to bed.

  17. Keep naps early in the day and restrict them to 30 minutes or less.

    • Don’t sweat it if you spend the whole time just trying to fall asleep. The process of falling asleep has many of the same benefits as the nap itself does!

 

As helpful as these tips may be, they’re not exhaustive, and there may be things preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep that are beyond your ability to solve on your own. If you have good sleep habits but still find yourself unable to sleep, definitely consider seeking professional help, because being sleep deprived is not a state you want to live in for any significant amount of time!

 

For another long list of tips, check out Your Guide to Better Sleep.

To see how healthy your sleep environment is, take this Sleep Hygiene Test.

If you are having difficulty dealing with things in your life that may be impacting your sleep, consider booking an appointment for Ambrose Counselling. They can also help you determine what is impacting your ability to sleep if you’re not sure.

If you just need a friendly face to talk to, or someone who can help you develop some good sleep habits, consider booking an appointment for Peer Wellness Advising.


References:
American Psychological Association (APA). (2020). Psychologically Sound Tips for Better Sleep. Speaking of Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/better-sleep-tips
Breus, M. (2020). The Latest Science on How to Create Your Ideal Sleep Environment. The Sleep Doctor. Retrieved from https://thesleepdoctor.com/2020/08/19/latest-science-on-how-to-create-your-ideal-sleep-environment/?cn-reloaded=1
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Sleep Center. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/sleep/sleep-and-mental-health
Sidhv, M. (2020). The Psychology of Sleep. N1 Fitness. Retrieved from http://www.n1fitness.com/podcast
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Category
Wellness